Legislature

Convoy of truckers and vaccine supporters clash during a protest at the Legislative Assembly

Saturday’s event was smaller than last weekend’s, with Victoria Police estimating the crowd at around 1,500 – well below the 5,000 who gathered a week ago.

Reports of a second convoy of trucks to rival that of the previous weekend had not materialized at the Legislative Assembly by mid-afternoon on Saturday, but horns were honking and protesters were louder than ever.

They lined Belleville Street in front of Legislature two and three deep to voice their opposition to COVID-19 health mandates and to show support for the “Freedom Convoy” that converged in Ottawa last weekend. Many waved flags, with hockey sticks as masts.

Crowds did not spread out much on the Legislature lawn during the first part of the event, and the Legislature steps and part of the catwalk in front of it were cordoned off with rope.

Last weekend, trucks arriving in Victoria from the top of the island clogged the streets and a crowd estimated by Victoria police at 5,000 gathered at the scheduled Legislative Assembly rally to coincide with a larger protest in Ottawa.

Police had received conflicting reports over the appearance of the protest, pushing the number of vehicles arriving from very few to twice as many. They estimated the Saturday crowd peaked at around 1,500 people and dropped to around 1,000 by 3:30 p.m.

People carrying signs in support of vaccines and COVID control efforts were scattered among the crowd supporting the convoy, but civility seemed to rule the day.

“Maybe that’s just the nature of this protest,” said Roseline Ferre, who carried a sign in support of the healthcare system down Belleville and Government streets. “I had great conversations with people on the other side.

“We have to engage in dialogue, we have to relearn how to talk to each other and hear each other.”

She has described herself as a “silent protester” who appreciates what healthcare workers and politicians have done.

Andrew Maddock said he showed up in support of truckers and all Canadians.

“I’m glad the truckers stepped up and stepped in,” he said. “But everyone in Canada needs to change these things. These mandates don’t work, they have to get rid of them. You can’t force people to do that stuff.

Richard Czech took care of supporting the truckers.

“My dad was a trucker for 40 years, so I’m here to support truckers and the cause,” he said. “I believe in freedom. I don’t believe in warrants.

Czech, who was vaccinated against COVID-19 because of his work, said he is neither for nor against vaccines – personal choice is what matters to him.

A few blocks away, on Government and Wharf streets, people carrying signs supporting vaccines had the corner to themselves.

“I don’t see this as a counter-protest as much as a separate protest,” said Cole Tresoor, who knew others like him on the street during the main event.

He said his group met away from the Legislature to accommodate people who felt uncomfortable in large crowds.

Police spokesman Bowen Osoko said ‘nothing really unusual’ had happened by mid-afternoon at the Legislature and there were no signs that anyone intended to stay and camp.

Similar rallies took place across Canada on Saturday, with demonstrations and counter-protests in Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec and Vancouver, among other cities.

In downtown Vancouver, horns blared all afternoon as vehicles moved up and down Burrard Street and people gathered on Robson Street.

On Kingsway and Broadway streets, counter-protesters stood and cycled past a convoy of anti-warrant trucks, blocking traffic until police temporarily diverted several large trucks, to cheers from the crowd .

Tempers flared as counter-protesters held up signs in support of vaccines and called for silence outside St. Paul’s Hospital.

The hospital workers’ union said its members were asked by the local health authority to remove their scrubs and identification tags when leaving work on Saturday “out of concern for their safety”.

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— With files from The Canadian Press and the Vancouver Sun